Our society — including religions — has continually moved further away from regarding death as a natural culmination of life and an occasion to be marked with rich rituals of remembrance, grief and passage.
Other than at funerals, how many sermons have you heard on preparing for death, reacting to the deaths of others or on a thorough understanding of death in Christian theologies?
Now comes a book that treats this whole topic in remarkable detail and depth: The Last Passage: Recovering a Death of Our Own by Donald Heinz (Oxford, 1999; cloth, $27.50). Heinz, an ELCA pastor, is dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts at California State University, Chico.
Most helpfully, he provides specific suggestions for how to reclaim dignified and meaningful traditions for observing this last passage. References to many other resources are offered.
I'm not aware of any other book that deals so thoroughly with religious and spiritual responses to death, including the current inadequacy. Every congregation should own this book.
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